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Berlin cops cracking down on distracted drivers

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BERLIN – Connecticut police agencies and the Department of Transportation are cracking down on distracted driving for the next two weeks.

The campaign, “U DRIVE. U TEXT. U PAY." is an effort to keep drivers from taking their hands off the wheel.

Drivers caught using a hand-held mobile phone to talk, text, or otherwise distract themselves, could get pulled over and ticketed.

Connecticut’s cell phone and texting law includes violations of fines ranging from $150 dollars for the first offense, $300 for a second, and $500 for each following violation.

This campaign lasts until August 16.

The Berlin Police Department has undercover officers set up on a busy road to look for offenders. When they see a driver on their cell phone, they radio officers down the street, who go after the distracted drivers.

According to Berlin Police, distracted driving is the number one cause of crashes in the town.

“A lot of the accidents that we go to are involved with someone who was on their phone,” Berlin Police Officer Jeffrey Scoppetto said. “It’s just prevent people from getting into a car accident, keeping the roads safer.”

Officer Scoppetto said since more people have cell phones, the number of distracted drivers is increasing.

“The Pokémon go thing doesn’t help you see people driving around at all hours of the night including the day time that are on their phones and their excuse is they’re playing Pokemon go,” he said. “The apps don’t help, let alone the texting and voice calls.”

This is the second go-around of the initiative, in 2016. In April, the Berlin Police Department handed out more than 600 tickets. There were 12,000 citations issued to drivers throughout Connecticut who chose to ignore the distracted driving laws.

Between state and local police departments, nearly 50 law enforcement agencies are taking part in this effort to keep Connecticut roadways safe.

According to surveys conducted in last year’s crackdown, there was an 8% drop in mobile phone use by drivers at the locations enforcement was conducted throughout the state.